I've looked all over Trip Advisor, but couldn't find an accurate reference to this particular cruise company. True, there are the odd rhapsodical reviews of similar sounding endeavours, often confused with the City Clippers, or with any of the countless operators who pilot tubs of various denominations and river-worthiness up and down the Thames. For this, boys and girls, is London. Capital of Great Britain, the hub, the nexus, The River! And whilst in the Capital on a blindingly hot day (remember them?) what better "activity" for a couple of "Seniors" to do, than to boat up the Thames to Kew Gardens?
Having checked out the booking cabin the night before, situated by Westminster Pier, we presented ourselves the next morning in time for the 1100 sailing to Hampton Court, with intermediate stops of Kew and Richmond. We paid Seniors rates, which were, I thought, very reasonable. Other fares are available, but you young folk can afford them!
So what is so special about this cruise. Why am I bothered to put it in the right place on TA?
After getting past the seething hordes on the pier, all of whom (thank God) appeared to be travelling downstream, rather than up, we found ourselves boarding the venerable (1911) "Connaught". This is the very same “Connaught” which headed the procession of boats for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee back in 2012 – which we had witnessed from Battersea Gardens. A delightful vessel, all of whose attributes I failed to examine as we'd found a nice spot "forrard" against the main body of the craft, above which our very own Captain could be seen on his bridge (or wheel-box). According to the said Captain, all manner of delights could be found within, including a bar at which comestibles could be purchased. We had a hint of our Captain's whimsy when he indicated that sometimes the barmaid would be carrying out further duties at his request - hastily adding that she was trainee crew as well.
The vessel was not overladen, perhaps reflecting the characteristics of those who prefer to cruise inland rather than brave the far-off perils of the London Barrier. Yes, we were a quieter bunch, more introspective, perhaps and with a keen appreciation of the subtleties of our Captain's discourse. For - after indicating that he did not do "official" commentaries, preferring to entertain passengers (if they wished), our host launched into an excellent and at times irreverent exposition of all things riverly. From identifying the numerous bridges to castigating politicians of all parties, the narrative was joyful, rambunctious and ultimately enjoyable. It was readily apparent that he knew the river like the back of his hand, even going so far as to explain why we were taking a particular line (due to sandbanks) and sharing with us his timetabling woes regarding a certain low-hanging bridge! His delivery was perfect, reminding me of Harry H Corbett from “Steptoe and Son” and it really made our cruise. Certainly the passengers appreciated his efforts and so did we! All the while, we baked in the blistering sun and enjoyed our stately progression.
I do urge you to take this cruise, if you have the time, as an alternative to other modes of transport. Having said that, Kew is blessed with both rail and Underground services and is always worth a visit.